Italy is a country with a rich cultural and gastronomic history. It’s also a country with regional cooking that respects the different flavour profiles and dishes of each region. Meals are largely seen as an opportunity to refresh oneself – in a physical and emotional sense – in ways that are uniquely Italian.
In 1986, McDonald’s decided to put one of its fast food restaurants at the Spanish Steps in Rome – a culturally significant destination. This attempt embodied both the “dumbing down” of food and the abandonment of the Italian principles of the significance of meals.
For Carlo Petrini, a local political activist turned food journalist, it was too much. He rallied others to join him in successfully opposing the McDonald’s.
By 1989, the Slow Food Manifesto was signed and the Slow Food movement was officially founded in Paris.
The Tenets of Slow Food
The Slow Food movement has a seemingly simple mission. They envision “a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet.”
To achieve this goal, the movement defines food through three interconnected principles. Food should be good, clean, and fair.
The Slow Food movement defines these terms as:
- Good – quality, flavoursome and healthy food
- Clean – production that does not harm the environment
- Fair – accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for producers
Included in these definitions is the notion that food should be locally sourced, sustainable, and non-GMO. When these objectives are met, the result is food that is true to its origins. As a result, the diversity of foods and flavours is protected.
Bringing Slow Food to The World
To accomplish its vision of good, clean, fair food for all, the Slow Food movement works worldwide to champion biodiversity. It also fosters links between producers and consumers while bringing global awareness to the pressures on the global food system.
Slow Food is currently working to establish 10,000 food Gardens in Africa and identifying 10,000 products that are unique to the African culture and in danger of extinction within a few generations. These are being considered for inclusion in the Ark of Taste. They are also organising 10,000 local, grassroots groups, knowns as conviva, that work to achieve the objectives of the movement at their local level.
Through the conviva, the Slow Food Youth Network, food and taste education programs and regular international events, the Slow Food movement has established itself as an international organisation with a long reach and deep interest in the future of food.
Slow Food and You
What all of this means in terms of your table is entirely up to you.
If you chose to participate in the Slow Food movement, you are supporting a philosophy of the table that includes the preservation and enjoyment of regional cuisines. This approach to food includes local sourcing for products when possible and the use of products that respect the land.
It also means you are taking a stand for a saner way of life in which meals are not eaten on the run, with little regard for what the food tastes like.
It means deciding that your meals are about more than fuel – they are about the experience of sourcing, preparing, and enjoying the process and the companionship of those who dine with you.
Dining in this way is a somewhat lofty goal for those with hectic schedules and busy lives. In most cases, it’s not likely that dinner during the week is going to be the meal you have time to source, produce, and enjoy. A weekend meal or breakfast each day might be a better way to begin.
Whichever you decide, celebrating the food you eat by taking steps to protect what is unique about your culinary heritage while putting a boundary around at least some of the meals you share with family and friends is a great start.
What Else Can You Do?
There are many different initiatives and programs being sponsored by the Slow Food movement.
Get involved by becoming a member, participating in an initiative, or following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also check out their publications at the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity.